We shouldn’t be surprised. At. All.
Several years ago I went back to college after having all my babies with the lifelong goal of teaching in my sight. There is always something about academia that excites me and I couldn’t wait to get into a classroom and passionately share my enthusiasm for….History! I was so looking forward to igniting at least a handful of bright minds about the subject, I was so looking forward to making History at least ‘not boring’ for the rest of them.
Then something happened that caused me to seriously reconsider my career choice: No Child Left Behind. My observations of classroom transformations, witnessing my own children navigate through them, and long talks with teachers who were stuck implementing the legislation convinced me that I would never make it as a successful teacher within the new parameters set down.
You see, successful teaching is largely a creative venture. There is really no right way to go about it except to hold high expectations and be observant of one’s students at all times. That way we are aware when an “A-ha” moment is about to occur and can help the pupil to it. Lev Vygotsky, a renown child development psychologist, keenly observed the teacher’s role as providing a bridge for the learner to be able to ‘connect the dots’ as it were. Writing sage Kahlil Gibran echoed the sentiment in his work “The Prophet” when he says “No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.” It’s work to make those connections happen. It’s bleeding, investing, time-consuming creative work to set down the kinds of paths needed so that our students can learn. Those paths were blocked, blown up, and utterly demolished with the advent of NCLB.
Tests are everything now, thanks to No Child Left Behind. They determine whether or not a school gets funded. They determine whether or not a teacher is successful. They make lots of money for the test makers who have a close ally in DC. They remove any sort of creativity from the teaching experience and put our educators in positions to cheat in a system based on monetary values. They have robbed our children of the value of learning to think. They have eroded our schools so that they are nothing more than faceless information factories.
This group of Atlanta educators have a fair slice of my personal empathy. I’ve not been surprised at all that cheating of this kind has occurred. Not one of us should be. The confining, restrictive, and narrow paths of standardized testing necessarily invites criminal activity.
Teaching is a creative process and should have wide spaces to work with. Anything less is detrimental to learning. Hopefully – Maybe – Fingers Crossed – one day this stain on our national education system will be removed, hopefully, maybe, fingers crossed, without too much residual damage.
Here’s to all those teachers out there who managed to stay in the classrooms after NCLB was implemented. You are braver than I am and you have my utmost respect. And to the group in Atlanta, I understand.